Fast forward to the 90s. At that time, another doctor prescribed Fen-Phen and he also gave me lectures about exercising and eating a balanced diet. He gave me an envelope with each pill numbered: I had to take one pill in the morning, another before I ate lunch, one after lunch, one before and after dinner and a vitamin pill every night. I took these meds for a while but after about two months I got really shaky. I had chest pains and my hair was falling out. I felt like my insides were going to jump right out of my body. And I had other symptoms including swelling and problems with my blood pressure.
I told my doctor about these reactions, especially about the chest pains. He looked at me and said, 'I am going to take you off the Fen-Phen and just leave you on the Fen and see if that doesn't help.' I thought he was a quack but at the same time, I was so desperate to lose weight; I was willing to do anything I was told...
After complaining in a second visit, he took me completely off the Fen's and put me on Meridia—another diet drug. I took that for about three weeks but didn't feel any different. I couldn't stop eating—it was a real low point in my life. Next he gave me another diet drug to try.
Meanwhile, I had joined a health club but after a while, I got lazy. The weight wasn't coming off fast enough. I wanted to go to bed and wake up skinny. (I was only in my 20s.) I divorced my husband and decided that I had to do something for me. I went back to the doctor and the health club—at this point I was about 38—and said, 'I am done with all these diet pills, what else can I do?'
He ran a battery of tests and said my heart was healthy, blood pressure was fine, cholesterol was good. In other words, I was in good shape. He said I could go back on one of two meds: Fen-Phen or Redux.
I took Fen-Phen and my chest pains came back. My feet and ankles were swollen and my skin was so sore I could barely touch it. He stopped the diet drug and gave me a long lecture about surgery. He asked me to start a program like Slim-Fast. It was horrible and I couldn't stick with it. So I stopped seeing the diet doctor and ate my way back to fatness.
I was just surviving and gave up caring. My daughter started noticing things: she asked why I was wheezing and breathing so fast. I went to a new doctor but he just prescribed pain pills, sleeping pills, diet pills. For 17 years my legs hurt, I couldn't breathe. My blood pressure was 210 over 120: I even had to quit my job because I couldn't function. I was in the middle of lecturing my students and would forget what I was saying. It was like getting old—but I was only in my early 40s.
My niece finally snapped me out of it. She made me realize that I was so sick and urged me to go to her doctor. He advised me to have some blood work. Diagnosis: my thyroid was so underactive that it was almost non-existent. My blood pressure was extremely high and he noticed my breathing. They put me on a heart medication and said I was about to have a stroke or heart attack if I continued with the diet drugs. I stopped taking everything. I was digging a deep hole and couldn't get out of it without quitting all the prescription drugs.
This doctor put me on thyroid and blood pressure medication and told me that I have type 2 diabetes. Next up, I am scheduled to get tested for PPH.
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If you are thinking of taking a diet drug, I recommend you think twice. Go the natural route instead because there is no magic pill--in fact it could kill you. I found out the hard way that it takes longer to take weight off than it does to put on. And I am scared now—what has it done to my heart? I realize now that I should never have taken Fen-Phen."